The one thing that brought me out of retirement and caused me to open THE THROW CENTER was the cover story by Mike Dodd in USA TODAY, July 29, 2003. The three-page article was on the procedure to reconstruct a torn elbow ligament (the UCL) in a baseball player by the name of Tommy John in 1974. The surgery was successful and carries the name of Tommy John Surgery, which is reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow.
The article had pictures of the surgery and gave names of MLB pitchers that “had recovered successfully from the surgery and had their careers extended and some were even throwing harder than before the surgery”.
The success ratio on recovery to pitch again with success was listed as 85% and the total time for the surgery is now down to about 90 minutes. Rehabilitation after the surgery was about twelve (12) months.
The following three items in the article causes major concern.
- Because of the success of some of the pitchers who were reported to be throwing harder after the surgery, many young players are thinking they would like to have the surgery so they could have a bionic arm. They are not thinking of the 15% that failed to make a comeback.
- One orthopedic surgeon in Alabama performed 150 Tommy John surgeries in 2002.
- The surgeon in the article gave the percentages of Tommy John surgeries performed during 2002 as:
20% were MLB players and 20% were minor league players
60% were College and High School players
These percentages equate to one surgeon in the U.S. performed 90 surgeries on college and high school baseball players in the year 2002! How many more high school and college players across the United States had elbow surgeries in 2002?
Throwing is something man has done from the beginning. As more young men throw, more injuries occur and more surgeries take place. Why? There are thousands of young men that have never had a sore arm, pain or injuries from throwing a baseball. MLB makes no comment on these figures or gives no reasons why all players do not have pain or injuries when throwing a ball. MLB believes soreness and injuries is normal when throwing a ball.
All throwing injuries are caused by an error in the mechanics of the thrower, and the mechanics can be corrected or grooved. When a player is throwing from his natural throwing groove, he will not have stress, pain, soreness, swelling, tiredness or injuries to the arm, shoulder, elbow, biceps, triceps or forearm. The foregoing theories have been proven to be true!
Each area of soreness, pain or injury is caused by an error in the mechanics of the delivery. Baseball is the only sport I know of, that while performing one of the basic skills of the game, “throwing a ball”, soreness, pain and injuries will occur and this is considered normal by Major League Baseball.
Late in the season of 1969, my best pitcher grabbed his shoulder after the third pitch from the mound and said “something popped in my shoulder and it really hurt”. I placed another pitcher in the game and applied ice to the shoulder. The next day I went to MLB trainers, coaches and to two orthopedic physicians to find out what had happened. I also had access to the SMU coach, his trainers and team doctors. I received the same answer from all sources. They all said, “ice it, stretch it, run a lot, throw easy on the side and hope it comes back.” In two weeks, my pitcher was ok and ready to throw again, but the answers I had received two weeks earlier really bothered me. I felt like all these “authorities” did not know what caused the injury and today still do not know!
I began my most intensive research, studying all kinds of articles from pitchers, baseball players and books. I asked questions of everyone I knew in baseball. I went to the library and read biographies of many of the great pitchers in baseball learning how they trained, how they felt, how they set the records they set. How could the arms of the old timers be so durable when pitching in so many games and so many innings? Many pitched nearly every day -- often pitching both games in double headers. I always came back to Cy Young with 511 wins! How did he do it? He worked out in the off-season keeping his arms, shoulders and elbows strong, and he kept his legs strong and in shape by running. Check out Nolan Ryan’s records and workout schedule.
It took nearly five (5) years searching and watching anyone that had great velocity on the ball. When watching someone throw you can’t tell if he is having pain or soreness. You have to ask him. Some players throwing in the 90mph range had pain so great they could hardly stand it. Their managers or coaches never knew they were hurting until the pain was so great the players finally had to give in to it. When throwing with pain, control is the first to go and finally the pitching coach replaces the wild pitcher still not knowing he was in pain. Sometimes an injury on one throw will take them out of the game. Many coaches will tell the pitchers to “get out there and pitch” not knowing the pitcher was in pain. Pain is real!! Check out Billy Wagner who is 5’ 9” tall and hits 100 mph on radar while throwing with pain at:
By the beginning of the 1974-75 season, I had found the answers I was searching for in track and gymnastics. I had found the cause of elbow and shoulder injuries. I started developing techniques to train or groove a player’s throwing mechanics so he would know, without a doubt, that he was in his natural throwing groove. To complete the full motion, you have to groove the lower body, including the timing and putting it all together. Karate teaches us the legs have seven times the power the arms have and if
your legs are in the groove, the arm had better be in the groove or you could have a very serious injury to the arm, shoulder or elbow. Not only can you tear up a shoulder or elbow, you could break the humerus(upper arm) while throwing a ball. The humerus break is the one injury MLB can’t answer and the orthopedic physicians in baseball can’t answer. The standard answer of “overuse” as being the cause of throwing injuries in baseball does not work with the pitcher breaking the humerus when pitching. (See: BROKEN HUMERUS) (18+ cases found on the internet)
After working with my own high school players and proving my theories correct, I joined a semi-pro team that played in the DABA (Dallas Amateur Baseball Association). It was composed of players back from college, the pro ranks and a few of the top high school players in the area. To prove my theories, they had to work on players I had never coached. I joined the Dal-Rich Rebels and traveled with them for three years, not to coach, but to work with injured players. I worked with fourteen (14) players on the Dal-Rich team. When we played other teams, one of the Rebel players always knew someone on the other team that was sore, in pain, or injured. They would tell their injured buddies to meet me in the parking lot after the game. I would work with them and tell them the cause of their pain or injury and help them find their natural throwing groove.
Over the next twenty years I worked with over 200 hundred players that were sore, in pain when throwing, or injured. Many came to me with scars on their elbows or shoulders and some already had multiple surgeries to the elbow or shoulder. Young men came to Dallas as far away as Florida and California for help in grooving their throwing mechanics, and for help with their pain, injury, or loss of control. To my knowledge, none of the players I worked with had to have surgery again.
Sore or injured players are interested in what The Throw Center offers, and what it can do for them. Major League Baseball has their own ideas about arm problems, but they are paying a premium for all the players on the DL (Disabled List) (See: MLB DL) Not only are they having to pay insurance, the salaries continue while on the DL list. MLB teams even buy insurance to cover part of the salaries in case a player has to go on the DL.
A baseball team can’t win when most of their pitching staff is sore, injured or on the DL. MLB teams bring up the younger healthy players to try to win. The injured, many times are forgotten. There are hundreds of players that were good enough to make the big leagues, but lasted only one year before an injury took them out of the game. Check the record books and look up the following site on the Internet:
March 26, 2003, Peoria, Ariz. – The Padres are picking up where they left off in 2002, when injuries contributed to the club using a major league-record 59 players and 37 pitchers.
Two of the benefits of grooving the entire throwing motion is an increase in velocity and control without putting stress on the arm. Over and over in my research, I found pitchers that would just look at a spot and the ball would go there. During the early innings of a game, when I see pitchers today with five or six walks, it makes me wonder if they are having pain when throwing. When a pitcher is in pain or injured, control is the first thing to go. They do not tell anyone about their pain -- it could hurt contract negotiations in the future. Players learn to hide the pain and play. For a baseball player, this is the worst thing he can do to his arm, his shoulder or his future.
Baseball players must be strong and flexible in all parts of their body, very quick on their feet, in their hands, arms and shoulders. All “throwing errors” are caused by their “arm being out of their natural groove” when throwing. Not off balance! Many great plays are made when the player is off balance with both feet in the air in a layout position, on their knees or on their rear after diving for a ball. All must have their arm in a grooved position to throw strikes without putting stress on the arm or inviting injury to the arm, shoulder or elbow.
When our work with a player at THE THROW CENTER is complete, a player will know exactly where his natural throwing groove is “without a doubt” in his mind. He will know what error in his delivery caused his problem. He will know how to groove his arm without our help. During the season, each player may have the occasion to have to make a lightening quick, extremely hard or long throw to a base or to a cut-off man. If their arm is not in the groove, they will not throw a strike, and may end up with a very serious injury.
When the old timers used to arrive at the ballpark they were playing in, they would line up at home plate to see who could throw the ball out of the park. (My elderly Uncle who was a player scout for the Texas Rangers told me this). The old timers were proud of their great arms and liked to show them off to each other, and to the crowd. Not today! That golden arm is too valuable to take a chance on anything like that. Many outfielders today will not throw the ball in on a line for a strike. Could they be in pain?
Each player will be shown how to make throws from their natural groove and how to build all parts of the body for strength, quickness and flexibility. You will leave with drills that can be done in the off-season. You will also be shown how to warm up your arm even in very cold weather without throwing a ball, or putting stress on your arm. You will know when your arm and shoulder is warm and ready to start throwing a ball. You can even warm up when you are in the bullpen. All of our conditioning workouts in baseball contain full range of motion drills, which will help players in many sports.
We will work with players at any position, but overall, pitchers have the most injuries. We hope to be able to rehabilitate all players without the need for surgery. If a player has had recent surgery or is under a doctor’s care, he will need a Doctors Release before coming to The Throw Center as our conditioning, strength and flexibility workouts may challenge the injured area if not healed. If the surgery has healed, but you still have pain when trying to throw, we will try to not only groove your arm, but also try to rehab the injured area so you may throw without pain.
If you broke your humerus while pitching, it will require approximately three to four months of rehabilitation. After receiving your Doctors Release, come to The Throw Center and let us groove your throwing motion before trying to throw hard. When you leave The Throw Center, you will know what caused the break and how to throw properly from your natural throwing groove. You will no longer have a fear of throwing again.
If you have constant pain or sore spots, do not throw for several weeks before coming to The Throw Center. Stretch, run while using your arms, do push ups, hang on a bar to stretch the shoulder and elbow. Swimming is an excellent full range of motion exercise for rehab. You will be able to progress much faster if all the soreness is gone upon your arrival. Just show us where the soreness or pain was located, we will show you what you did wrong to cause the pain, or injury, and how to groove your throwing form. If your shoulder or elbow needs surgical repair instead of rehabilitation, you will know before you leave The Throw Center.
I believe 99% of arm, shoulder or elbow injuries
incurred while throwing a baseball can be avoided.
I believe some surgeries can be avoided with proper rehab
and correcting your throwing mechanics.
There is no excuse for having a chronically sore, weak or injury prone arm.
We want you to have a long and healthy life in baseball